Activities, Holidays

Tips for an Effortless Family Photo Shoot

December 10, 2014

Whether you need new photos for the Christmas cards or just want some current pictures of your family, the holiday season is the perfect time for a family photo session.

I personally love family photos so much that we’ll have a few sessions done every year and with young children, that is not an easy feat. From one mom to another, here are a few tips I’ve picked up along the way that will help you have a successful photo shoot.

Find a Fantastic Photographer

Find the right photographer for the job by asking friends for reccommendations, researching your options, and browsing through local photographers’ websites and portfolios. If you have young children, make sure to choose someone with experience and a great deal of patience. Communicate with them ahead of time on the kinds of shots you want to capture and what your goals are for the session. Then sit back and let their creative vision take over.

Note: We chose Brianna Leigh Photography and couldn’t have been more happy with her professionalism and how comfortable she made everyone feel.

Opt For a Mini Session

Many photographers do mini sessions around the holidays. These abbreviated sessions are typically less expensive and easier on the whole family. They get the job done before anyone has a chance to get weary, and you still end up with some great photos!

Timing is Everything

What is the best time of day for your child to have pictures made? It is especially important to keep this in mind with small children. Schedule sessions around nap times and meals.

Rested and Fed

Eating healthy and getting plenty of sleep is always important, but it is especially important before family photos. A momma’s tired eyes are hard to edit out, and so are cranky kids. Make sure everyone has eaten before leaving for photos too. You don’t want to have to spend your photo session time stopping for snack breaks. A fed and rested family makes for a happy family.


*Photo credit: Brianna Leigh Photography


When choosing outfits for the family, I like to center everything around a color scheme. Sometimes I even have an outfit in mind that I want one person to wear, and I use that as the starting point. For the session pictured, the scheme was pink, grey, and white. It looks better to have the pieces coordinate rather than match perfectly. And the cozy sweaters and scarves went well with our location–a Christmas tree farm.

It’s important for everyone to be comfortable in what they are wearing. Below you’ll see my three-year-old in a pair of jeans from and a plaid shirt layered under a cozy sweater. Since we were taking pictures outside, layered outfits were important. They kept everyone warm without the need for a bulky coat and gave each outfit a stylized look.


*Photo credit: Brianna Leigh Photography

Here are just a few more things to keep in mind when choosing outfits:

  • Add a few accessories.
  • Think classic and timeless when choosing outfits.
  • Use a mix of mostly solids and a few patterns.
  • Avoid shirts with logos, characters, or words.

Talk to the Kids

I always like to tell the kids ahead of time what we are preparing for. I explain that we are going to get dressed and ready for an adventure and have Ms. or Mr. (insert photographer’s name) take our pictures. Even young children benefit from knowing the plan for the day. My middle child is very shy, so this helps him mentally prepare to be around someone he may not be familiar with. Turning it into an adventure builds excitement and helps with their cooperation.


*Photo credit: Brianna Leigh Photography

Arrive Early

Show up early for your photo session “adventure”. If the location is at a new place, this gives the kids an opportunity to explore and become acclimated to their surroundings. It also gives you a chance to get everyone ready and settle in before the camera starts clicking. By striving to arrive early, you also give yourself a cushion of time if traffic is bad.

Come Prepared

Your photographer is prepared with the backdrops, props, and equipment they need, but what should you bring? Being prepared is important, so make sure you have snacks, bottles of water, safety pins, lint rollers, combs, baby wipes, and any other items you think might come in handy.

Relax, Have Fun!

Relax! Take deep breaths! Photos should be fun! View this as a chance to make memories and have those memories captured. You are also capturing your kids at the stage they are in at that particular time which makes the photos quite special. And don’t stress. You all look great! I’m thirty pounds heavier than before having kids, and although it’s not ideal, I’m not going to let that stop me from being in photos with my family.

Act Natural

Posed shots are great–the ones where everyone is looking at the camera. They are espcially rare and spectacular when the little ones are all looking. Have some natural shots taken too. These candid moments will reflect everyone’s personality. They are authentic and real. Let the photos tell a story–the story of your family!

Take Your Own Photos!

If you can’t squeeze in a session with the whole family this holiday season, take your own photos of just the kids. Find a holiday outfit like this blue sparkle and tulle dress from, choose your location, grab a camera, and have fun.

Happy holidays!



AUTHOR BIO: Jennifer is a wife, mother of three, and former teacher turned stay-at-home-mom. She’s also the face behind the blog The Life of Jennifer Dawn where she shares posts about family, motherhood, crafts, sewing, recipes, and everything in between!

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